The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery's revenue in February slipped by about $1.8 million from the same month a year ago to $39.3 million, and the amount raised for college scholarships dipped by about $750,000 from a year ago to $5.9 million.
But the lottery's total revenue during the first eight months of fiscal 2018 exceeded the previous high recorded for the same period in fiscal 2012. February is the eighth month in the fiscal year.
In February, scratch-off revenue increased slightly over year-ago figures, while draw-game ticket revenue fell compared with a year ago, according to the agency's monthly report to Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Legislature's lottery oversight subcommittee. Draw games include Powerball, Mega Millions, Natural State Jackpot, Cash 3, Cash 4, Lucky for Life and Fast Play.
Lottery Director Bishop Woosley said Monday that ticket revenue dropped in February from the same month last year because "last February we had a Powerball jackpot in excess of $400 million and Powerball sales were roughly $2 million more than this February."
The amount raised for college scholarships -- called net proceeds -- dipped last month from a year ago partly because the lottery's profit margin is greater on draw-game tickets such as Powerball than on scratch-off tickets and the lottery sold fewer Powerball tickets last month than a year ago.
"In addition, we had two large prizes this February, which has an impact on the proceeds that we raised for February 2018," Woosley said in a written statement.
The lottery has helped finance more than 30,000 Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships during each of the past eight fiscal years. The Legislature cut the size of scholarships three times over a handful of years because net proceeds fell short of initial projections and more students than initially projected received the scholarships.
Starting with the 2016-17 school year, students receive $1,000 for their freshmen year at a four-year college; $4,000 a year for their sophomore and junior years; and $5,000 for their senior year if they remain eligible for the scholarship. Two-year college students receive $1,000 for their first year and $3,000 for their second year if they remain eligible for the scholarship.
The Department of Higher Education's latest projection is that in fiscal 2018, Academic Challenge Scholarships totaling $93.3 million will be awarded to 34,472 students.
After the lottery's revenue and net proceeds rebounded in fiscal 2016, the Legislature in 2017 created the Arkansas Workforce Challenge Scholarship program to be financed with excess lottery proceeds. Those scholarships are for students enrolled in programs that lead to qualification for jobs in high-demand occupations.
Starting in the coming school year, the Workforce Challenge Scholarship will be the lesser of $800 or the cost of a certificate program or program of study, including tuition, fees and other charges; textbooks or other course materials, and equipment needed for a course.
In February, scratch-off ticket revenue increased from $32.4 million a year ago to $32.8 million, while draw-game ticket revenue dropped from $8.6 million a year ago to $6.4 million, the monthly report said.
Revenue from retailers totaled about $54,452 last month. The lottery reported 1,936 retailers selling tickets as of Feb. 28 -- up from 1,927 from a year ago.
Woosley said the lottery hasn't done a survey yet on how many retailers accept debit cards to purchase tickets. Debit-card purchases are allowed under a law that went into effect Aug. 1. Otherwise, purchases involve cash.
Woosley said he hopes the lottery conducts such a survey sometime this year.
During the first eight months of fiscal 2018, revenue totaled $326.7 million, eclipsing the previous high of $311.3 million for the same period in fiscal 2012.
So far in fiscal 2018, net proceeds totaled $55.4 million. The total for the first eight months of this fiscal year only lags behind the $60.9 million raised in the same period of fiscal 2012.
The lottery reported unclaimed prizes of $547,408 last month to boost its unclaimed-prize reserve fund balance to $5.7 million. At the end of the fiscal year, the lottery transfers the balance of the unclaimed-prize reserve fund, minus $1 million, to college scholarships.
"After February, we are $4 million above our projections," Woosley said.
The lottery's revenue and net proceeds for college scholarships peaked at $473 million and $97.5 million, respectively, in fiscal 2012 before dropping each of the next three fiscal years. Net proceeds rebounded in fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2017.
Lottery revenue in February
Metro on 03/13/2018
Print Headline: February lottery revenue down $1.8M from '17